Can differential exposure to risk factors explain recent racial and ethnic variation in marital disruption?

Julie A. Phillips, Megan M. Sweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Large racial and ethnic differentials in the risk of marital disruption are observed in the United States, with Blacks exhibiting higher rates of disruption than many other groups. We use data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth to investigate whether racial/ethnic differences in exposure to risk factors for disruption can explain variation in levels of marital instability across groups. We consider a wide array of risk factors for disruption and offer one of the few recent analyses of marital instability among Mexican American women. Our results suggest that, if differences in population composition between groups were removed, the White-Black and Black-Mexican differentials in disruption would be reduced by approximately 30% and 50%, respectively. The story regarding the White-Mexican differential is more complicated, however, and hinges on nativity status of Mexican women. Finally, in light of large differences in marital instability between US-born and foreign-born Mexican women, we also explore the possibility that compositional differences might contribute to differentials in marital instability between these two groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-434
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Divorce
  • Race and ethnicity
  • United States

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